Social Work Voices at the University of Suffolk: Listening to and involving people who have experience and knowledge of social work and social care services
People with a variety of experiences and knowledge are involved in many elements of social work education. It is a fundamental part of the activities at the University of Suffolk.
Why do it and what is it about?
Involving and listening to people with experience of social work services, is highly valued by students and the social work course team at University of Suffolk and partners within the Suffolk and Norfolk Teaching Partnership.
Essentially social work practice is about social justice and social change and this is reflected in the meaningful involvement of service users and carers at the University of Suffolk, in the education and training of social workers. 'Nothing about us without us’ is a really good way of saying this.
Involvement can include being involved in anything related to social work education across University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council from admissions, interviews, contributing to teaching and learning activities with students and Social Workers, assessing students' skills and knowledge, developing learning materials, influencing what is taught at pre-and-post social work qualification, making sure service user perspectives are integral to decision making forums.
Involvement in admissions interviews means being part of an interview panel alongside a member of the social work course team and either a social work practitioner, a practice educator or a social work manager. Together people discuss their views of the quality of applicant's interview and make a decision about if the applicant is suitable for the social work course.
Contributing to teaching and learning activities
This can mean service users or carers talking in small groups or to large conference audiences, about their experience of needing support and working with social workers, care or key workers and what worked well and what could have been different. When students and Social Workers hear and really take in these experiences it can make a big difference to their understanding and it influences their values and shapes their social work practice.
Assessing students' skills and knowledge
Examples of this are where service users or carers observe and/or take a part in a student role play and provide feedback to the student. Students really appreciate this immediate feedback.
Developing learning materials and influencing the curriculum
This can be about creating case studies or for example a list of top tips (see below for an example). Learning materials that are informed by people’s experience and knowledge make education more vital and engaging. Service users and carers are involved in shaping what is taught and how it is taught and advise the social work course team at University of Suffolk and Workforce Development at Suffolk County Council on potential changes.
Taking part in decision making forums
Service users and carers are involved at all levels of the Teaching Partnership and are involved with social work course committee meetings. This is where students get a chance to feedback their views to the course team and partners and service users and carers also have a voice.
These are just some of the ways people get involved at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, but there are other ideas and we would be interested to hear from you if you have an idea.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the involvement of social work service users and carers at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, please contact:
For more information on our approach please read Sophie's Blog
- An article about how service users and students learn and work alongside each other at South Bank University
- A paper based on a case study of service user involvement in an adoption research project
- A special issue of Social Work Education - The International Journal
- A National Voice - Coram is for children and young people to actively participate in shaping their own lives and holding to account the services that are responsible for their care
- Shaping our Lives - INVOLVE - A national user-controlled organisation and network.
- Suffolk Children in Care Council gives a voice to children and young people in Suffolk's care services